Panda, Penguin, Oh My!
No, I’m not speaking about animals in a zoo. I’m speaking about the names of the Google algorithm updates that have caused website and business owners panic about lost rankings, reduced traffic to their websites and less money in their business bank accounts.
Ok, I’m not going to bore you with all the gory technical details of the various algorithm changes, but am going to simply break it down into several key points of reference that are easy to understand and will help you to keep up with the changes so you can maintain and/or improve your websites for your desired business results.
Originally released in Feb 2011, Panda focused on poor quality site content. You may not have noticed or realize, but Panda, has been an ongoing Google algorithm update in various stages that, at this writing, continues to rollout. Typically, Google seems to be pushing out a refresh of Panda on an average of about every 4-6 weeks.
Page Layout Algorithm
Released in January 2012, this Google update penalizes sites where content is buried under tons of ads. It involves a variety of signals that algorithmically determines what type of ad or content appears "above the fold". But with this change I've also seen site architectures that are top heavy with large graphics and have their content positioned below the fold be affected by this update.
At the end of April, the Penguin update targets webspam and Over Optimization. This penalty that seems to be now rolling out targets sites that are guilty of "over SEO-ing", content spam, spun articles and keyword stuffing. And not just on-page, but off-page abuse as well! It's nailing sites that have any suspicious or questionable external link development. CLOSELY monitor what your vendors are doing with your link building!
So How Do You Avoid These Filters?
Yes, content IS king, but these Google updates are specific to sending a clear message that the USER reigns. Make your content useful, beneficial and informative for the USER first and foremost.
- Poor content - Providing solid, quality content to your site visitors is essential. Because Panda affects a website SITE-WIDE, if enough pages are seen by Google as containing poor quality content, the entire site can be affected – although you may still see pages with good content continue to rank. Remove and/or improve poor quality content.
- Fresh content – Don’t set it and forget it… you will need to commit to keeping your site fresh with quality content. Blogs are a powerful tool for keeping content fresh. Be consistent.
- Unique content creation within your niche – become an authority not only within your niche, but in the eyes of the search engines with your own unique content. Position yourself as an expert. Tip: Use the rel=”author” tag!
- Write how-to guides
- Write content that teaches
- Create buying guides for your products
- Answer questions from surveys
- Overdeliver value!
- Design your content for conversation – engage your readers / visitors not only to participate, but to share. Differentiate yourself from the competition -- SEO value comes more from sharing content - when other people host, distribute or talk about your content
- Share what you are creating on social networks. Your social involvement is included in algorithm landscapes.
- Publish rich, helpful, useful content on your blog designed for conversation
- Tell a story
- Interview people in your niche
- Create infographics
- Create surveys or answer questions
- Publish press releases on your site
OMG, it’s always been about links… but, SERIOUSLY, WHEN are people going to finally get it? One of the Penguin filters targets linking schemes designed to manipulate your site’s PageRank. Stop The Madness!
For THE LOVE OF GOD, quit trying to beat the system and just do it right! Don’t you see that in the LONG RUN, it will HELP your site? Why risk harming your business with poor link development?
And whatever you do, research any outside vendor you are considering for your link development and closely monitor with your own independent and frequent backlink reporting.
- If you’re going to use paid links, use the nofollow tag and be more discriminating as to WHY you are buying the link. Make it about USER EXPERIENCE and receiving more targeted traffic, than about PageRank.
- Make it organic. Having large numbers of links at one time to a page/site, having an over-abundant number of duplicating anchor texts and an excessive amount of links from spammy sites, etc. are obvious signals for Google to penalize your site. Naturally and holistically building links over the life of your site is the smarter way to go.
- Make it natural. External links built over time from a wide variety of sources will appear natural to the search engines. Rethink your online marketing strategies to naturally grow your backlinks.
- Link out to helpful resources. Linking out is actually a GOOD thing to do. Just be smart about the anchor text used when determining how much authority you want to pass. Also determine whether you want to take your user off your site or have the link open to a new page or tab.
- Be inconsistent! Mix it up with different anchor text and don’t over optimize or keyword stuff your anchor text links.
- Social counts in link authority. Links within social networks are defined indicators in the algorithms. So try to link to your content w/in your own social networks as well encourage your readers to share.
- It’s not about quantity, but quality. Forget about those large numbers of external links and analyze the quality and relevance of your backlinks.
Bottom line, if you’ve been building and maintaining your website correctly w/best practice organic SEO, updating / improving your content and have a natural backlink structure by holistically building external links over time, your website will not see radical changes in the search engine results pages when these algorithm updates occur.
It’s when you want fast results and start cutting corners to beat the system that you endanger your business’ online presence in search. Resist the urge! Make the commitment to your online business strategy and your investment will be rewarded.